"They were careless people, Tom and Daisy - they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made." F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby
I entered through the side door. Making Vichyssoise soup, served cold with lady fingers, I sat glued to the stories of the roaring twenties where parties and old money oozed of aristocracy. Big hats for women, cigars for men echoed through caverns of dusty dregs of a bygone web. I sat with an old man. The house creaked with the whisper of years slipping through the chime of a clock.
Jack Dempsey, Wall Street, Hollywood Park, his distant memory was alive and vibrant, the daily routine had slipped. His frail body hunched over, he wondered why the gardener, who had been there for some forty years, still insisted on carving the outdoor bushes into small green marshmallow mounds - if only to annoy him. The evenings drew him into a library where the books were dark and dusty. Cigarette smoke billowed through vellum pages.
He was gruff, sarcastic and angry now, the cloak of youth encircling shadows of time. Stories of live lobsters crawling out of the refrigerator as a type of fisherman's catch and a whispered name ... bunny. It was't his wife but it was clear, she was lodged deeply into the fabric of a man's coat, his coat but I didn't ask questions.
My own days turned into weeks and then months and I wondered whether this chance meeting was truly by accident. Sixty years his junior, there wasn't family or friends that lived in the area; I guess I brought some levity to his tired days. He had a niece, though, from the mid-west who occasionally came to visit. She was maybe forty-five years older than me. I looked forward to her visits.
Searching into paths of curiosity, wondering and grasping for life's golden door,
which mediocrity beholds the key? or does it lie within the hands of fate? (1983) or
Life is not eternal, yet faith is said to be, follow thy path of worship and falter to thy knees for
life is like a rainbow and God will grant our dreams to be (1981).
Words I wrote. This niece was a published poet. We connected through words. We connected through friendship. Having moved away from home at the age of seventeen, her presence reminded me of the connection of family. She had a deep faith in God. I had turned my back on faith but a window was left open at a young age and an ever so slight breeze blew in.
Our conversations were uncluttered. She was encouraging in all the ways I needed. I took her attempts to change my words into something better as an attempt toward someday publishing something of my own but in the process of changing the words, I lost my authenticity. She has long since passed away but I realize now, the seeds of faith she planted in me were a rekindling of a childlike hope and a weaving of a maturing relationship with Jesus Christ.
God was redeeming time and conversation into a deepening story of hope.
She was a woman of faith and I had given up on God - I didn't measure up to my own judgment of who I thought God was. The door slammed shut ... or so I thought.
That experience seems a lifetime ago and yet, with memory, I am still connected.
Fast forward thirty-five years to today. God's time is not our time. Faith in someone greater than ourselves. Hope in something we do not yet see. Love, the intangible that outlasts us. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Three days ago, I walked out into the morning light where the image of mountains on an old glass window caught my eye. Immediately words drifted into my mind about the reflection in a mirror; I stumbled through a quick search in the bible to find the rest of the words.
I posted a picture on Instagram not realizing the gospel message later that night centered around the same verse.
I walked out one door - my home into another door - a busy work environment. Hours passed in a shuffle of papers, ideas and people. The day was finished and I headed back home, walked the dog, rested for an hour, dusted my face in the mirror and drove my jeep, for the first time in a while, back out - Wednesday Youth Group. A Bethel Worship conference message prompted my heart in a roomful of high school kids.
The televised message began ... For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Unapologetically, I linked the two events in one day as not a coincidence but a bit of communication to keep hope in God's plan for my life.
I thought back to an old man, a lunch and a white table where we watched the gardner trim hedges into marshmallow mounds - I smiled. I smiled at God's timing. I smiled that the memory some thirty-five years later still had an influence on me.
So ... how do I wrap this post up?
I wrap it up with faith, hope and love. My poet friend - with strong faith wanted to change my words or maybe God wanted to intricately continue the conversation through time, space and distance in order to deepen my roots of trust in a God that is concerned with my character.
We are here but a moment but someday we are in a new home.
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.
My friends, it is not by accident you stumbled upon these words. May God, alone, strengthen, encourage, equip and deepen your faith through an intimate conversation ... and a journey, where faith, hope and love are not just words on a page but a love letter between you and a savior named Jesus.
May God continue to write your (timbrenotes) worship song.
I climbed narrow and steep iron grid steps to a second story potter's shed. Sunlight filtered through patterned wood. The sound of water trickled over broken bits of colored tiles.
Twice in six weeks, I have taken a tile making class on a remote island where the story of history is told. She takes a bit of simple clay in her hands to roll a ball. Feeling the residue of earth between her palms, she makes a log shaped coil and bends it into an upside-down u shape and says the word, memory.
This bit of clay, she said, will automatically re-coil into the same shape (almost as a memory) unless we manipulate the substance.
"We need to stop trying to fit God into our mold" is an idea that keeps resonating with me. Imagine a busy doctor's office or a deli where a million things are happening and you need to WAIT and wait and wait until your number is called. I work in such a place as that, where the second I hit the building, I'm going a hundred miles an hour, behind the scenes and in front too. Now, add that to a good many folks I care about that live out of town which causes me to travel a lot. Add that to ministry - I am a volunteer youth worker. Add that to several pod-casts, a conference and some classes and well, I crumble - a bit ... like dry, cracked clay.
I pause. My lens narrows to the sunlight stretching in through slivered windows. The mold stamped as if with a cross, the clay - soft, moldable; broken pieces of colored pottery washed up upon the shore. All of these ingredients draw me into a story, this story. I pause. In order to slow the internal noise and the external schedule, I quiet my pace in order to become fully present in a fleeting moment passing quickly through my fingers.
I pause. The bible is filled with scripture about the potter's clay. And, as I received careful instructions to make a simple tile,
I could not help but reflect on God deconstructing me. Not only is my image of him being re-shaped but everything about me is upside down. I WAIT for the potter to mold.
Prayer - Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer, and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. NIV Philippians 4:6
To be honest, I was completely exhausted before I got to this potter's shed. Work and ministry had me tired and yet, I needed this weekend with family to be memorable. I had to pray my way through the details and trust the potter's hands for a story worth re-telling.
There are plenty of viable options for your time. There are for mine too and yet, I pray and ask God for just a bit more strength to reach out to others or to find a pool of reserve energy to write. I do these things not because I am a nice person, not because I am earning my way to heaven but in my willingness to be moldable clay in the father's hands, I trust His plans. I invest in the story of other people as a tangible reflection of my faith; it is the only way I know how to spread the good news of the gospel.
The potter's hand. The next step is color.
A map with my name and a diagram with color swatches sits beside my indented clay. It is ready for the parts that give it vibrancy. In us, it is the people and experiences that scatter color like streaks of sunsets across ocean shores. I wait. I wait for the tile to be fired. I wait for a series of steps I do not see. I wait for the tile to be finished and mailed in a box to my doorstep.
I wait for the potter's hands.
I am simply ONE person. How could the father use one broken piece of clay?
Do Not Give Up Hope
The first thing seen when entering this potter's shed, is a large shell once washed up upon the shore. It now is the home for broken bits of colored clay. These fragments were found along the shore of the Pacific ocean this past summer. Literally, at high tide, scraps of broken pottery are churned up and scattered along the beach.
The potter's hand gathers them as precious treasures found.
Memory - is the title for this post. Memory - clay rolled into a u-shape will eventually return to that position without the work of molding, shaping and breathing.
Will we be made new?
If we are called to a growing, vibrant faith, then we are called to trust the potter's hands; he will use our experiences to create something valuable in us. How many times, have we come to question our worth? Unless you see through the lens of loving eyes, we will continue to live small lives. In order for God to re-shape memory into His constant presence and goodness, we have to be willing to bend freely and rest in the warmth of His hands.
This world is vying for survival one failure at a time. God enters your story and mine to create something beautiful. We are both the broken and colored bits of pottery scooped up from the shores. We are also the hands to scoop up other broken pieces.
Your story intertwined with my story for the sake of a greater story.
Like broken bits of colored clay, my life was falling apart. I followed a jeep trail from social media leading me to an out-of-town conference. I thought it would be about faith. It wasn't. I thought it would be about a platform, it wasn't. I thought it was about a new experience, it wasn't. It was about a relationship.
It was God reaching out through other broken bits of colored clay in order to scoop up my tired and broken soul.
Lunch on the second day, I sought the shade of a tree. I sat alone with a plate of food. A stranger approached and asked if she and three students (she just met) could sit with me. That led to a conversation about faith. For some reason, she said her son was gay and they had been ostracized by the church. Tears spilled from my eyes, as this was the first opportunity I had had to openly talk to strangers about my daughter's relationship. She welcomed me into a community where hundreds of mothers are being turned away from the church. Inwardly, I wept. Outwardly, I was embarrassed, lost and alone.
Other broken pieces of clay scattered upon the shores. God waiting to use people - to scoop and be scooped in a lost and hurting world.
In the following weeks, I was invited into a church community where the breaking of break and the offering of water takes place through a computer screen. I stumbled upon a broken young teenager with the weight of life and the load of a medical diagnosis on the shoulders of her frail frame. My words could never convey the pain witnessed in a candid shot from mother and daughter and I thought of Christ and how he wept.
God doesn't grant wishes, although He does hear our prayers, he invites us into a story - yours and mine and both have great value because in the potter's hands, each abandoned dream wrapped in one soul is a valued treasure washed upon the shore.
What if ... you could only do ONE thing for God?
One thing; one word. Hope.
May you have eyes to see and a heart to love.
May the peace of God which transcends all understanding guide your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
A fellow point guard for the faith; a writer, deep thinker, music loving, jeep blazing ... follower of Jesus.